Alessandro Baricco: Silk
In 1861, Flaubert was writing Salammbô, electrical light was still a hypothesis and Abraham Lincoln was fighting a war with no end in sight at the other end of the ocean. Hervé Joncour was 32 years old. He bought and sold silkworms. The whole village depended on the thriving silk trade, until an epidemic of silkworm diseases caused production to fall, which led Hervé to go to Japan, a faraway island that looks “invisible”, with one purpose in mind, smuggling. But what Hervé does not know is that fate is hiding him un-oriental gems in the empire of the sun. Baricco can tell a beautiful story with not so many words, leaving the reader mesmerized and reminding us once again that what we hopelessly looked for at the other end of the world was in front of our eyes all along. Not quite the breakthrough, but the story just flows effortlessly, almost like “nothing” between our hands.